Saanich has opened nominations for the 2020 Enviromental Awards on March 5. (Black Press Media file photo)

Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation spends big dollars on road building

Despite capital investment, community forest still dolls out $300,000 for projects and charities

The Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation (WCFC) had a good year despite some changes that had to be made because of COVID-19, but the wet summer with little threat of wildfires helped offset the problems caused by the pandemic.

The community forest’s annual profits from the operations are distributed back into the Bulkley Valley with the aim to provide the greatest long-term benefit. They held their annual general meeting recently and WCFC Director Lindsay Lange gave Telkwa council a summary at their last regular meeting.

This year a major investment was made into road building and maintenance.

“About eight kilometres of roads were either constructed or upgraded this year,” Lange explained to Telkwa councillors. “ We needed to access some other pockets of the community forest, and those decisions aren’t made lightly. This will generate long term harvesting opportunities for the community forest.”

She added they also installed three new bridges and a major culvert in their efforts to reactivate existing road systems while ensuring safe fish passage at road crossing locations.

Lange said they also pride themselves on using local contractors. The harvesting and road building operations completed in this fiscal year resulted in contracts with a combined value in excess of $2.2 million.

“That is quite a significant amount that went back to businesses in our community,” she added.

During the 2019/2020 fiscal year almost 30,000 cubic metres was harvested from their tenure area. The majority of this volume, approximately 80 per cent, was sawlogs sold and delivered to Pacific Inland Resources in Smithers and about 17 per cent was dry balsam logs that was delivered to Seaton Forest Products near Witset.

Lange added that, in addition to these delivered volumes, almost 10,000 tonnes of harvesting by-product was delivered to pellet producing facilities in the local area.

“We are working really hard to improve the utilization of fibre from every hectare that is harvested which has reduced the amount of slash pile burning required and reduced our carbon foot print, which is fantastic news,” she told Telkwa councillors.

Also of note this fiscal year, which runs from July to June, WCFC did not plant a single seedling.

“Normally, we are planting every year to replace what has been harvested. This is partly as a result as COVID,” explained Lange. “It was one of the biggest planting seasons planned in B.C. on record, but that season was delayed because of COVID. Most of our planting happened in July, which is right after our year end. So we will probably double dip on the silviculture expense next year.”

The wet weather helped with the summer planting. Normally the planting happens in the spring for mother nature to water the seedlings but that wasn’t a problem this year with the one of the wettest summers on record.

The community forest also did some work to create bigger fire breaks this year. There are now wider areas, particularly around roads to help with fire fighting efforts.

WCFC distributed $298,134 from the 2019/2020 Grant Program to successful community applicants.

The program has been around since 2007 and in the past 13 years they have given out approximately $2 million.